Canadian defence minister rebuts Punjab CM Amarinder Singh’s controversial charge of being a Khalistani and asserts his Sikh roots.
Days after Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh called him a “Khalistani”, Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan said on Monday he did not support the break-up of any country.
Answering a question at an event in New Delhi about the controversial charge of being a “Khalistani sympathiser” made by Singh last week, Sajjan said that he does not want to be drawn into the internal politics of India.
“I do not support the break-up of any country. I don’t want to be sucked into the internal petty politics of any state or province,” Sajjan said at a New Delhi event organised by the Observer Research Foundation on conflict prevention and peacekeeping. “I have been given many labels all my life. But I am here to build the relationship between India and Canada.”
Speaking at ThePrint’s ‘Off The Cuff’ event in the capital last week, Punjab’s newly elected chief minister stunned the audience saying he would not meet Sajjan.
“There are, in fact, five ministers in the Justin Trudeau government who are Khalistani sympathisers and I will not have any truck with them,” Singh replied to a question by ThePrint Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta. Singh added that he was denied entry into Canada last year because these ministers stalled his visit. “I will send one of my ministers to meet him when he comes to Punjab.”
Sajjan said it was his responsibility as the defence minister of his country to request a meeting with the Punjab chief minister.
“My job is to be respectful to the leadership,” Sajjan said.
Sajjan has served both in the Canadian army and police force before taking the plunge into politics. He became a minister in Trudeau’s cabinet last year.
In a swift reaction to Amarinder Singh’s comments, the Canadian High Commission in New Delhi said that “the comments regarding Canada’s ministers are both disappointing and inaccurate. We regret that the Chief Minister of Punjab is unavailable to meet with Canada’s Minister of Defence. The Chief Minister is welcome to visit Canada.”
In a firmly worded rebuttal to Amarinder Singh’s accusation, Sajjan said that the relationship between Punjab and Canada “is because of its people… You cannot take away my state, my village from me.”
Sajjan said that he will visit his native village in Punjab and will pay respects to the Sikh shrine Harmandir Sahib. His family had moved to Canada when he was just five years old.
Sanya Dhingra is a Reporter with ThePrint. You can follow her on Twitter @DhingraSanya
Picture Courtesy: @orfonline